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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                        J3Q
the war broke out. In spite of the opposition of the school
authorities he gave up his job and joined the army. His
whole object in life, all his interests, joys, plans for the
future, and all his successes were bound up with aviation.
And yet they talked to him about Williams.
"But Williams was not an airman," said Alexei, and
turned to the wall.
But the Commissar persevered in his efforts to "unlock"
him. One day, when he was in his usual stupor, Alexei
heard the Commissar say:
"Lyosha! Read^this. It's about you."
Stepan Ivanovich was already carrying the magazine
to Meresyev. It contained a short article marked with a
pencil. Alexei ran his eye down the page looking for his
own name, but did not find it. It was an article about
Russian airmen of the First World War. Gazing at him
from the page of the magazine was the unknown face of
a young officer with a short moustache twisted to fine
points, and wearing a forage-cap with a white cockade
on one side of his head so that it touched his ear.
"Read it, read it, it was written for you," the Com-
missar urged.
Meresyev read the article. It was about a Russian army
airman, Lieutenant Valerian Karpovich, who was hit in
the foot by a German dumdum bullet while flying over
the enemy's lines. In spite of his shattered foot, he
managed to take his "Farman" across the lines and land
at his base. The foot was amputated, but the young
officer wanted to stay in the army. He invented an
artificial foot and had it made from his own designs. He
trained perseveringly for a long time and, as a result,
returned to the army towards the end of the war. He
was appointed inspector at an army aviation school and,
as was stated in the article, "sometimes risked a flight in
his aircraft". He was awarded the officer's St. George
Cross and successfully served in the Air Force until he
was killed in a crash.
Meresyev read the article once, twice and a third time.
The lean, young lieutenant with the tired but determined
face gazed at him with a rather strained but, on the
whole, gallant smile. Meanwhile, the entire ward tensely
watched Alexei. He ran his fingers through his hair;